Monday, August 13, 2018

ELGL's City Hall Selfie Day is Aug. 15

Chances are if you're active on social media and in local gov, you've probably come across #CityHallSelfie Day! #CityHallSelfie Day is a chance to celebrate local government service and the important work happening at the local level, and to showcase local government facilities.

This year, #CityHallSelfie Day is set for Wednesday, Aug. 15. Whether you work for a city, county, special district, township, or other form of local government, Aug. 15 is the day to snap a selfie in front of your government building and post it loud and proud on your social media account of choice.

#CityHallSelfie Day is coordinated by ELGL, the Engaging Local Government Leaders Network, a big tent local government professional association that connects, communicates, and educates about local government public service.

It's not a competition per se—everyone wins when we take pride in local government service—but ELGL and Bang the Table will be partnering on an awards program for #CityHallSelfie takers in twenty categories that you can see on the ELGL website. Nominations and voting begin Aug. 17. 

How do I participate?
  •     Stand in front of a government building—e.g. city hall, a public works garage, fire hall, or a picnic shelter.
  •     Snap a picture of yourself or a group.
  •     Share the photo on social media with the hashtag #CityHallSelfie.
  •     Want to compete for prizes and recognition? Check out the list of award categories linked above. 
We think Minnesota cities have what it takes to be well represented this year and have some fun. We'll see your smiling faces on #CityHallSelfie Day!

LMC Board alumna Tina Rennemo from Baudette has pretty
solid selfie skills.

Friday, August 10, 2018

See You There! City Careers at the MN State Fair

 It’s 12 days of putting the “POW!” into people power! 

Grab your capes, because the “Discover Your City Superpower” booth will return to the State Fair this year as a project of the League of Minnesota Cities. This year you'll find us in the Education Building, helping visitors take a touchscreen quiz to discover which city careers need their superpowers.

The state fair booth’s website sidekick,, features interviews with city staffers and elected officials sharing what they really think about what it's like to work in Minnesota cities. Thanks to the city folks who gave us a behind-the-scenes look!

New this year—city careers on a roll
The League is trying something new and running advertisements on local bus routes during the fair, encouraging riders to check out to see all the opportunities for rewarding careers. We’re excited to get the word out to a new audience that may never have considered city employment before!

What’s all this?

Since 2009, the League has had a campaign dedicated to educating the public about city services and where tax dollars go. The campaign is now going through a rebranding process to incorporate promotion of city careers and to reflect the needs of cities today as well as the values of young people—aka future city leaders. Since the Minnesota State Fair is the Great Minnesota Get-Together, it’s a great place to continue spreading the message about the value of cities to Minnesotans while the campaign’s new look is under construction!  You can still find lots of great content about city services as well as city careers at

The Minnesota State Fair runs Aug. 23-Sept. 3. We'll see you in the Education Building!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Q&A with Mental Health First Aid Instructor Akmed Khalifa

City employees have opportunities to create connections with many members of the community. Through these connections, city employees are in unique positions to provide help when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. But how can city employees get the tools needed to provide that assistance?

Akmed Khalifa is an instructor for Mental Health First Aid, a program that gives people tools to provide aid during a mental health crisis, and he took some time to talk about the upcoming eight-hour workshops that the League will be hosting around the state.

How does Mental Health First Aid prepare people to provide help in a crisis?
First, the concept of Mental Health First Aid is to provide help to someone developing a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis, so we prepare people to offer first aid in a crisis until appropriate help can be reached. The goal is to give you the skills to recognize warning signs of a mental illnesses crisis and the ability to say “I know what’s happening, I recognize these signs, now I know what to do.” The purpose isn’t to teach people to diagnose mental illnesses, but instead to provide them with a variety of skill and tools, to help someone who may be experiencing a crisis. Not only are you given the tools to connect to appropriate professional help, you’re given tools to offer help and what can be done. There is detailed information on how to de-escalate a crisis, and what words to use in many different situations.

Why do you feel this training is important for city employees?

Mental illness is an everyday situation and affects everyone, which is why this audience is so great. This was made for everyone, not just people who are already first responders. People in these roles connect with many community members, it’s likely that they’ll connect with someone who can be helped with the skills they’ll get in these workshops.

What sort of need have you seen for this training in Minnesota cities, and what impact have you seen it have as more people are trained?
There is a high demand for the class across the state. Part of what we do is to help people understand that mental illness is much more common than we think and that we all experience anxiety or depression, but there’s a difference between that and having depression. A big part of these workshops is to recognize that difference, and to understand what next steps you can take. You’ll develop active intelligence—you’ll be able to act on the information you get in this eight-hour training, plus you’ll have materials to refer to so you can provide the best help.

What sort of impact have you seen Mental Health First Aid having in the community?

Shortly after my co-teacher started instructing these workshops, one student put this knowledge to use to help someone at her church who was thinking about suicide. She used the words in the manual, understood the needs the person in crisis had, connected the person with appropriate professional support, and that person then got treatment. The great thing about Mental Health First Aid is that you can put it into action to make a difference in the community.

Want to know more about Mental Health First Aid? Visit the League’s website to find out about workshops scheduled this fall.

Akmed Khalifa is a Fairview Health Services Youth Grief Services Camp coordinator focusing on expanding the program into North Minneapolis. Akmed has spent the past 40 years counseling and mentoring young adults in both community and educational settings. Akmed is an educator and trainer with experience ranging from serving as adjunct faculty at Metro State University to being a certified diversity trainer who has taught City of Minneapolis employees, Bloomington Public Schools staff and others.

This Q&A was originally posted in 2017, and has been updated with new links to the 2018 workshops.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Spotted: Welcome to 2018's Incoming LMC Board Members

No summer doldrums here—the League welcomed fresh energy to the Board of Directors at the July board meeting. We're looking forward to the experience and talent that this class of directors will bring to leading Minnesota cities and the League organization over the next year and beyond!

Please welcome from left to right: Joshua Malchow, administrator-clerk, Slayton; Mary McComber, mayor of Oak Park Heights (Minnesota Association of Small Cities representative); Rita Albrecht, mayor, Bemidji; D. Love, councilmember, Centerville; Amy Brendmoen, councilmember, St. Paul; and Mary Gaasch, mayor of Lauderdale (Metro Cities representative). Don't you love a good group photo?

The new Board members were elected during the membership’s business meeting at the League’s recent Annual Conference, held this year in St. Cloud. You can see the full LMC board lineup here.

Also at the July board meeting, outgoing president Jo Emerson, mayor of White Bear Lake, passed on the gavel to Heidi Omerza, councilmember from Ely. The League gives Jo our heartfelt thanks for her dedication and leadership. You can see a bit about Jo's work representing Minnesota cities and engaging youth in The Next Generation of City Leaders.

Photo credit goes to LMC staffers Danielle Cabot and Jeff Korte

Friday, July 20, 2018

The July-Aug 2018 Issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine Is Now Online

When it's time to cool off from these long summer days and power up with local gov ideas and info, is the place you can check out (and share!) the July-Aug issue of Minnesota Cities magazine.

For this issue’s cover story, see how cities like St. Louis Park, Warren, Edina, Elk River, Pine City, and Red Wing are taking advantage of surging interest in electric cars in Cities Get Charged Up About Electric Vehicles. 

More highlights:

When the city of Shakopee's new inclusive playground was complete, project partners realized they had built a play destination to be proud of as well as a stronger sense of community. Check it out in Ideas in Action: Fun for All! Shakopee Builds Inclusive Playground.

Dave Bartholomay, mayor of Circle Pines and program coordinator with the Office of Collaboration and Dispute Resolution, shares some of the lessons he's learned the hard way on keeping it civil and getting the job done in Interpersonal Communications—A Few Lessons for City Elected Officials.

It's not uncommon for city staff to wear more than one hat, and sometimes several! Review what should be considered in Letter of the Law: Compensating Employees Working More Than One Job.

And as always, check out From the Bench for summaries of recent court cases, St. Paul to City Hall for Executive Director David Unmacht’s five principles for good governance, and Two-Way Street to see how city officials from Jasper and Littlefork approach pet licensing.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Saying Farewell to Camp #MnCities

On June 20, hundreds of city officials came to St. Cloud for Camp #MnCities—the League’s 2018 Annual Conference. Over the course of three days, campers discovered ideas during more than 20 educational sessions, created connections with other city officials as well as more than 100 vendors and League staff, and heard from inspiring speakers.

Look back at this year's conference, and share some of your own highlights in the comments below!

Autumn from Sassy Lassy Trivia & Events led the League's intergovernmental relations (IGR) team, plus League board members Mike Mornson and Heidi Omerza, with a fun quiz show exploring the ups and downs from the 2018 legislative session. 

Camp #MnCities kicked off Wednesday evening in the exhibit hall. Campers made s'mores, enjoyed live music around the camp fire, made crafts, and took part in other camp activities as they connected with fellow city officials, vendors, and League staff.

Camp started bright and early Thursday morning with a panel on the urban-rural divide. Moderator Darin Brodon from Tunheim led the discussion with State Demographer Susan Brower, Mayor of Bemidji Rita Albrecht, University of Minnesota Vice President of Matt Kramer, and Research Director with Growth and Justice Kate Searls.

Every year, the League and city officials say good-bye to outgoing board members and welcome new ones during the LMC Luncheon & Annual Meeting. On Thursday, 2017-18 League Board President Jo Emerson congratulates outgoing Past President Rhonda Pownell (top), and new League board president Heidi Omerza addresses city officials for the first time in her presidency (bottom).

Fox 9 Anchor Amy Hockert emceed this year's brand-new awards show and dinner. The evening recognized the winners of the 2018 City of Excellence awards, cities advancing in the GreenStep Cities program as well as the 2018 Sustainability Award, and the 2018 James F. Miller and C.C. Ludwig leadership awards.

Campers took notes during the closing session on Friday morning as keynote speaker Paul Schmitz. Paul engaged the crowd as he explored how communities can grow stronger through meaningful engagement and collaboration.

Already excited for the 2019 Annual Conference? Share your ideas for next year during an annual conference focus group this fall. Contact Laura Harris at by August 1 to take part.

(Photo credit Todd Myra Photography.)

Friday, June 22, 2018

Spotted: Scenes from Day 2 of Camp #MnCities—Thursday, June 21

Day two was jam-packed with more educational sessions, a tour of host city St. Cloud, and an all-new awards show! Enjoy some more highlights from Camp #MnCities...

In addition to engaging sessions, fun activities, and inspiring speakers, campers also collected badges to highlight their conference achievements. (Submitted photo)

On Thursday, GreenStep Cities recognized participants who achieved their sustainability goals and reached new steps in the GreenStep program. (Submitted photo)

Campers also engaged in a discussion on the urban-rural divide. Moderator Darin Brodon from Tunheim led discussion with State Demographer Susan Brower, Mayor of Bemidji Rita Albrecht, University of Minnesota Vice President of Matt Kramer, and Research Director with Growth and Justice Kate Searls. Panelists engaged the crowd by asking attendees how they view the urban-rural divide and whether they think it's an issue. (Photo credits Todd Myra Photography)

During lunch, Mark Stodola, Mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas and President of the National League of Cities, shared his thoughts on the connection between LMC and NLC, the importance of a unified voice, and how important it is for city leaders to band together to represent everyone in the state. (Photo credit Todd Myra Photography)

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis led a historic riverwalk tour of downtown St. Cloud during Thursday’s short-shot sessions. (Photo credit LMC intern Kayla Collins)

Awards Show Emcee and Fox 9 Anchor Amy Hockert reviewed the evening’s program with LMC Training & Conferences Manager Laura Harris. (Photo credit Todd Myra Photography)

League Board President and Ely Councilmember Heidi Omerza (far left) and LMC Executive Director Dave Unmacht (far right) honored Apple Valley Mayor and C.C. Ludwig Award Winner Mary Hamann-Roland (second from left) and Waconia City Administrator and James F. Miller Leadership Award Winner Susan Arntz (second from right) at the all-new awards celebration.

What have been your highlights from Camp #MnCities? Share in the comments below!

Did you miss the photos from Day One? Check them out here!